For a brief, not-so-shining moment in the 80's and early 90's, a bizarre moral panic swept the country. People began fearfully whispering rumors about a mysterious Satanic cult that abducted and abused children in bizarre rituals. There wasn't and still isn't a shred of evidence that this cult ever existed, but that didn't stop people from airing ridiculous television specials about the dangers of Satanism and sinking millions of dollars on a circus of a trial that resulted in no convictions.
We have this book to thank for kicking off that particular shitstorm:
Michelle Remembers is the "true story"of a woman's journey to recover through therapy her memories of the horrendous abuse she suffered at the hands of a coven of Satanists. The book is pretty much just 300 pages of lies and was eventually quite thoroughly debunked, but the damage had already been done and there are still people (though thankfully not nearly so many) who believe in Satanic ritual abuse today.
I'm currently trying to read this book. I enjoy studying the mythology of the Satanic Panic, and I'd heard enough about the crazy shit Michelle claims happened to her that I thought it'd at least be a good guilty pleasure read. It's not. It's a cold, dreary, lifeless thing, and the batshit insane parts just aren't worth wading through the sea of boring crap to get to them.
But because I think it's important to examine the causes and psychology of the Satanic Panic (and because misery loves company) I'm going to motor through the whole damned thing and deconstruct it for your enjoyment.
I'd like to get a few things out of the way before I begin. This book begins with a couple of opening statements, a publisher's note, and a prologue. They aren't very long, and I don't have enough observations about them to make a full post, so here they are:
First off, we have a quote from Pope Paul VI about evil and how it's "a living spiritual being, perverted and perverting." I'm confused. Four years of Catechism class at Catholic high school taught me that evil is just an absence of good, not some sort of malevolent living thing. This sounds like an excerpt from a bad Christian fantasy novel.
Then we have another statement from the delightfully named Remi De Roo, Bishop of Victoria, who seems guardedly skeptical of the claims this book makes and tactfully points out that he does "not question that for Michelle this experience was real." I think I like Remi De Roo. I can practically hear him saying "I think this woman is cray-cray, but I'm far too polite to come out and say it" in his head.
The publishers admit that they feel that this project is "unusual" and they are absolutely right. They also point out that Dr. Pazder, one of the co-writers of this book, has a lengthy and impressive list of credentials. It is so very lengthy and impressive, in fact, that I find myself staring at it and being fascinated that he made it to such an exalted position before so utterly shredding his own reputation with one ridiculous book of lies. Also the publishers claim that they thoroughly investigated Michelle's story. I don't believe them.
This part details Pazder and Michelle's journey through the Vatican trying to get an audience with someone who believes their story and is mostly pointless, though I'm amused that Pazder goes out of his way to describe himself as "Tall, blue-eyed, and tanned even in February." This isn't your OK Cupid profile, Pazder.
And we haven't even properly gotten to the story yet. Doesn't this book sound like fun?
One-stop link shop for all existing Michelle Remembers decons:
Chapters 4 & 5
Chapters 8 & 9
Chapters 16 & 17
Chapters 20 & 21
Chapters 23 & 24
Chapters 28 & 29